MRC IHR was founded in 1977 in response to a requirement of the 1970 Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act for "an institute for hearing research ... to have the general function of coordinating and promoting research on hearing and assistance to the deaf and hard of hearing."
MRC IHR is one of only a handful of centres around the world that delivers interdisciplinary research on hearing, covering a wide portfolio of auditory science from fundamental neuroanatomy to the quality of life experienced by a patient. It is one of the largest UK investments in hearing science, employing senior staff that are experts in neuroscience, psychology, acoustics, and medicine. Many of the leaders in UK hearing science have at some point in their careers worked at MRC IHR, either as programme leaders, post-doctoral scientists or PhD students. Since its inception MRC IHR has been at the leading edge of basic and applied hearing science.
On June 1st 2016 MRC IHR became a University Unit in the University of Nottingham. This transfer cements the strong relationship that already exists between the University and MRC IHR since it was founded. The shared long-term vision of the pioneering research programmes and the staff conducting them remain the same.
Our highlights since 1977 include:
- The National Study of Hearing, the most important study of the prevalence of hearing loss in the UK, and the primary source for the calculations of the number of hearing impaired adults in the UK
- Identification of the first "deafness gene"
- Fundamental work on the neurophysiological basis of binaural hearing
- Discovery of Comodulation Masking Release
- Evaluation of the national cochlear implant program
- Instigation of universal neonatal screening
- Fundamental work in auditory fMRI, such as "sparse sampling" and systems to reduce scanner noise
- Development of questionnaires now widely used in research and clinical practice, such as the Glasgow Hearing Aid Benefit Profile (GHABP), the Glasgow Benefit Inventory (GBI), the Speech, Spatial, and Qualities of Hearing Questionnaire (SSQ). Our newest instrument is the Evaluation of Children’s listening and Processing Skills (ECLiPS)
- Development of standard speech tests, such as the ASL sentences, FAAF words, and Automated Toy Test.
MRC IHR operates on three sites. The Nottingham University Section (illustrated) is a dedicated building on the campus of Nottingham University. It currently hosts three research groups and the central administration, computing, and technical support teams. The Nottingham Clinical Section is embedded in Audiology/ENT at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. The Scottish Section is in brand-new labs at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow. Staff and students across all three sites interact on a frequent and regular basis, often now by video and skype links.
This structure provides MRC IHR with vital, direct links to clinical needs as well as the lab space for basic research, and also brings close links to universities across the East Midlands and Glasgow.
MRC IHR is generously equipped with experimental facilities. At the Nottingham HQ there are fully-equipped, modern neurophysiological laboratories, behavioural laboratories, equipment for detecting tinnitus in animal models and full histological and light microscopical facilities. For human work there are four double-walled chambers; three of these are for human psychophysics and the fourth is part of a new state-of the-art human EEG laboratory. There are also dedicated electronic and mechanical workshops for building bespoke experimental equipment. We have a 50-person seminar room, and a large staff room/library. MRC IHR has a flourishing seminar series and attracts important speakers from all over the world.
At the Nottingham Clinical Section there are two double-walled chambers and facilities for both paediatric and adult research. The larger chamber is equipped with a ring of 24 loudspeakers for spatial-hearing experiments.
The Scottish Section’s new facilities, opened in January 2014, have two large double-walled chambers, each equipped with arrays of 24 loudspeakers and motion-tracking equipment, and two medium chambers for audiological and headphone work.